Just when you were bored with the Sheila humor, comes an alter ego of the club dancer, with a twist. If anything, she couldn’t get any more over-the-top than transgendered, clad in a garish, mukesh studded sari and adding that comic value to an otherwise Bollywood-inspired play. So what if she’s just a sidekick? She’d traipse down the stage and move it with the odd audience member. That’s how interactive the musical is.
Directed by Flora Mahmood and Javed Saeedi as the producer, the play sprinkles stardust on set, costume, choreography and dialogue. It is sandwiched between a slew of dance performances, from Rahat Fateh Ali’s gentle ‘O re piya’ to the bhangra number ‘Aiween Aiween’. That there is no live singing, does not come in the way of the dances meticulously choreographed by Wahab Shah.
Avanti, revolves around ‘Aja Nachle’ (2007), the Hindi comeback for the Brazilian film Xuxu Requebra (1999) in an oddly familiar setting, reminiscent of Madhuri’s thumkas (moves).
Perhaps, musical directors assume pulling the Bollywood extravaganza card spells success. Case in point, Bombay Dreams. Or maybe that’s just the audience obsession to the genre.
Sundus Jamil, as Khwahish, flees her home-town Avanti, when her passions for music and dance are cut short by societal norms. An unexpected phone-call from Sheila makes for her troubled return to the land she grew up in to become a dancer, under the tutelage of her Guruji, who has passed away. The locals do not approve of her dance floor and want to demolish it to build a shopping mall. What ensues is a poignant struggle of bitter-sweet moments, to resurrect the lost institution of dance, music and theatre galore in the face of all odds.
All actors have chemistry and stage presence. The rhythm of dance saves an otherwise mediocre script, largely borrowing from popular Hindi icons - Shahanshah, Gabbar Singh, Robert et al. Fair share of Micheal Jackson and Shakira references pack ample punch with spot on comic timing.
Mobeen, an audience member commented, “For me the timing between changing the backdrops and costumes was done near perfectly. Normally you’d expect delay and stalling so that they buy more time to change- but this was amazing. It was very interactive- so interactive.. that we were in the story.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2011.
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